And he's right. There are those who applaud a good sermon, give hearty “amens” and sing hymns with a gusto many of cannot seem to muster. But when it comes to sharing the gospel, to reaching out and helping the poor, the orphans and the widows (Luke 14:12-14 among others) – and I do not mean dropping an offering in the collection plate, although that is certainly part of it, but actually going out personally, and doing what one can to help those in need while sharing the gospel with them. This is orthopraxy, this is “walking the walk” as some put it. There needs to be a a closing of the gap between orthodoxy and orthopraxy as God states in the Book of James, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:22-25)
As clear as this is in Scripture, I am amazed at how many people in the church steadfastly refuse to apply this passage in their lives. Are they simply apathetic? Do they not care one whit about those who are hell bent, just as every single Christian once was? Do they think that now, since they are bound for eternal glory in heaven that they can turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the rest of the perishing? I would sincerely hope not. As Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great preacher of the 19th century once said, “Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay, and not madly to destroy themselves. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
I cannot say that I do not see the Word in action amongst my Christian brothers and sisters, but I can say that there are many in the church who are content to simply plop themselves in a pew on Sunday mornings, hear a sermon and then leave the church and do nothing for the Lord all week long, until the following Sunday when they repeat their obligatory “Christian” duty for the week once again. I see this time and time again, and I believe that not only is the church poorer for it, but our nation is all the poorer as well.
I will also point out that I am not the only one noticing this. Because of the large number of those who hear but do not do (as James 1:22-25 above points out), the evangelism, the sharing of the gospel both in word and in deed – which is our only “job” as Christians – there are that many more who never hear the gospel, never see the gospel in action, even as they sit day after day right next to a professing Christian, and the result is they believe the church is dead or dying. Because the number of Christians who are willing to tell others about Jesus, who are willing to help those in need, who are willing to be active doers of the word, is small (when compared to the hearers only crowd), the doers are now considered to be “fundamentalist extremists,” bigots, narrow minded and so on; and because of this sin grows and becomes more pronounced in America. It is more readily accepted as the norm as opposed to what it truly is – an abomination of God. And again, our country is poorer as a result.
In his article, Dr. Land notes that even when Christian's are engaged in both the hearing of the word as well as the doing of the word, our nation benefits from this, and that even an avowed atheistic country such as communist China has recognized this. He quotes a recent statement from communist China's Academy of Social Sciences which said,
We were asked to look into what accounted for the preeminence of the West all over the world. At first we thought it was because you had more powerful guns then we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past 20 years we have realized the heart of your culture is your religion, Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to Democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this.
However, because of the great amount of “hearers only,” and the relatively small number of doers in the church today, what I will call the “Unbelieving Worldly Contingent” (UWC) in our country are attacking the Christian church in America as never before, and doing their best to not only delegitimatize true Biblical Christianity in America, but to also outlaw as much of it as they can. Although the UWC will readily accept, and even endorse to some degree, those churches and groups who profess to be Christians while eagerly embracing, approving and even promoting sin (i.e. ordaining openly homosexual clergy, embracing homosexuality as normal, allowing pagan practices such as goddess worship and wiccan rituals in the sanctuary, etc). In other words, the UWC will accept any Christian professing group or church that adheres to the beliefs of the UWC. Biblical Christianity, however, is outright condemned by them.
This should be a wake-up call to the church, and especially those within the church who, as I said, refuse to be doers of the word. We do not have the option of sitting idly by, content to be hearers only, especially if we are going to call ourselves Christian!
The word Christian, comes from the Greek word, Christianos, which means follower of Christ. Listening is not following. Listening, combined with patterning ones life after Christ, that is what following means. And, no, before you say it (and I know you want to), this is not just my opinion. This is what God tells us in His word. For example:
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5)
“You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.” (Deuteronomy 11:1)
“And Samuel said, 'Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.'” (1 Samuel 15:22)
“ through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Romans 1:5)
“And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” (2 John 1:6)
“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12)
Clearly, the obedience of true believers to God and His Word is a central theme in Scripture from beginning to end, and lest you think that Jesus did not teach this very thing, think again. Jesus said,
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:9-10)
“You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
It doesn't get much clearer than that. How can those who refuse to obey, whether consciously or unconsciously, continue to call themselves Christians? I am not talking about those who want to obey, but find it difficult due to physical or mental difficulties, but those who are completely able, but still will not. Why doesn't the church speak out against this practice of refusing to obey God? If we are physically and/or mentally able to share the gospel and live out the gospel as we minister to a lost and perishing world, then we are purposely and willfully disobeying God! Now whether you call this disobedience, or laziness, or rebellion, or lawlessness, the fact of the matter is that this is sin, plain and simple. Nothing more and nothing less. And Scripture is very clear about this:
“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:4-10)
Personally, I believe that as the true Biblical Christian church is persecuted in this country, those who profess to be Christian while they are not, will slowly leave the church as they will eventually no longer be able to maintain their Christian looking facade. Of them, Scripture says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19)
In other words, one can easily call themselves a Christian, but if they are continually endorsing sin, encouraging sin, engaging in sin (including refusing to obey the Lord) all as a pattern of their life, as a pattern of who they are, then they are not Christians, as the Scripture points out. Why doesn't the church speak out against this practice of non-Christians calling themselves Christians? Is the church afraid of being labeled judgmental? I should think the church would care less what the world thinks about it, and more about those to whom Jesus will say, “depart from me, I never knew you.”
For those who insist upon calling themselves Christian, while at the same time refusing to obey the Lord by refusing to share the gospel in both word and deed when they are perfectly capable physically and/or mentally, but still refuse to obey and often go so far as to justify and rationalize their disobedience in their own mind, I can only give you my prayer that you will take the Lord Jesus seriously when He says,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
1. From Spurgeon's sermon titled, The Wailing of Risca, which may be read at: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0349.htm
I would also encourage you to read “Why is obedience better than sacrifice?” on the Got Questions? website, at http://www.gotquestions.org/obedience-better-than-sacrifice.html